Autobiography by Thomas Jefferson


That it would be idle to lose time in settling the terms of alliance, till
we had first determined we would enter into alliance:

That it is necessary to lose no time in opening a trade for our people, who
will want clothes, and will want money too for the paiment of taxes:

And that the only misfortune is that we did not enter into alliance with
France six months sooner, as besides opening their ports for the vent of
our last year's produce, they might have marched an army into Germany and
prevented the petty princes there from selling their unhappy subjects to
subdue us.

It appearing in the course of these debates that the colonies of N. York,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina were not
yet matured for falling from the parent stem, but that they were fast
advancing to that state, it was thought most prudent to wait a while for
them, and to postpone the final decision to July 1. but that this might
occasion as little delay as possible a committee was appointed to prepare a
declaration of independence. The commee were J. Adams, Dr. Franklin, Roger
Sherman, Robert R. Livingston & myself. Committees were also appointed at
the same time to prepare a plan of confederation for the colonies, and to
state the terms proper to be proposed for foreign alliance. The committee
for drawing the declaration of Independence desired me to do it. It was
accordingly done, and being approved by them, I reported it to the house on
Friday the 28th of June when it was read and ordered to lie on the table.
On Monday, the 1st of July the house resolved itself into a commee of the
whole & resumed the consideration of the original motion made by the
delegates of Virginia, which being again debated through the day, was
carried in the affirmative by the votes of N. Hampshire, Connecticut,
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, N. Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, N. Carolina, &
Georgia. S. Carolina and Pennsylvania voted against it. Delaware having but
two members present, they were divided. The delegates for New York declared
they were for it themselves & were assured their constituents were for it,
but that their instructions having been drawn near a twelvemonth before,
when reconciliation was still the general object, they were enjoined by
them to do nothing which should impede that object. They therefore thought
themselves not justifiable in voting on either side, and asked leave to
withdraw from the question, which was given them. The commee rose &
reported their resolution to the house. Mr. Edward Rutledge of S. Carolina
then requested the determination might be put off to the next day, as he
believed his colleagues, tho' they disapproved of the resolution, would
then join in it for the sake of unanimity. The ultimate question whether
the house would agree to the resolution of the committee was accordingly
postponed to the next day, when it was again moved and S. Carolina
concurred in voting for it. In the meantime a third member had come post
from the Delaware counties and turned the vote of that colony in favour of
the resolution. Members of a different sentiment attending that morning
from Pennsylvania also, their vote was changed, so that the whole 12
colonies who were authorized to vote at all, gave their voices for it; and
within a few days, the convention of N. York approved of it and thus
supplied the void occasioned by the withdrawing of her delegates from the

Congress proceeded the same day to consider the declaration of Independance
which had been reported & lain on the table the Friday preceding, and on
Monday referred to a commee of the whole. The pusillanimous idea that we
had friends in England worth keeping terms with, still haunted the minds of
many. For this reason those passages which conveyed censures on the people
of England were struck out, lest they should give them offence. The clause
too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in
complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to
restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary still wished to
continue it. Our northern brethren also I believe felt a little tender
under those censures; for tho' their people have very few slaves themselves
yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others. The
debates having taken up the greater parts of the 2d 3d & 4th days of July
were, in the evening of the last, closed the declaration was reported by
the commee, agreed to by the house and signed by every member present
except Mr. Dickinson. As the sentiments of men are known not only by what
they receive, but what they reject also, I will state the form of the
declaration as originally reported. The parts struck out by Congress shall
be distinguished by a black line drawn under them; & those inserted by them
shall be placed in the margin or in a concurrent column.

A Declaration by the Representatives of the
United States of America, in General
Congress Assembled.

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to
dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to
assume among the powers of the earth the separate & equal station to which
the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to
the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which
impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their creator with inherent and [certain] inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, & the pursuit of
happiness: that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among
men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that
whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is
the right of the people to alter or abolish it, & to institute new
government, laying it's foundation on such principles, & organizing it's
powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their
safety & happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long
established should not be changed for light & transient causes; and
accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to
suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing
the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses &
usurpations begun at a distinguished period and pursuing invariably the
same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it
is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government, & to provide
new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance
of these colonies; & such is now the necessity which constrains them to
expunge [alter] their former systems of government. The history of the
present king of Great Britain is a history of unremitting [repeated] injuries & usurpations, among which appears no solitary fact to contradict
the uniform tenor of the rest but all have [all having] in direct object
the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this
let facts be submitted to a candid world for the truth of which we pledge a
faith yet unsullied by falsehood.

He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome & necessary for the
public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate & pressing
importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be
obtained; & when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts
of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation
in the legislature, a right inestimable to them, & formidable to tyrants

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable,
and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole
purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly & continually for
opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time after such dissolutions to cause others to
be elected, whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have
returned to the people at large for their exercise, the state remaining in
the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without &
convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that
purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners, refusing to
pass others to encourage their migrations hither, & raising the conditions
of new appropriations of lands.

He has suffered [obstructed] the administration of justice totally to cease
in some of these states [by] refusing his [assent to laws for establishing
judiciary powers.

He has made our judges dependant on his will alone, for the tenure of their
offices, & the amount & paiment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices by a self assumed power and sent
hither swarms of new officers to harass our people and eat out their

He has kept among us in times of peace standing armies and ships of war
without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the military independant of, & superior to the
civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our
constitutions & unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts
of pretended legislation for quartering large bodies of armed troops among
us; for protecting them by a mock-trial from punishment for any murders
which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states; for cutting
off our trade with all parts of the world; for imposing taxes on us without
our consent; for depriving us [ ] [in many cases] of the benefits of trial
by jury; for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended
offences; for abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring
province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging it's
boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for
introducing the same absolute rule into these states [colonies]; for taking
away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering
fundamentally the forms of our governments; for suspending our own
legislatures, & declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for
us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here withdrawing his governors, and declaring
us out of his allegiance & protection. [by declaring us out of his
protection, and waging war against us.]

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, & destroyed
the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to
compleat the works of death, desolation & tyranny already begun with
circumstances of cruelty and perfidy [ ] [scarcely paralleled in the most
barbarous ages, & totally] unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to
bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their
friends & brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has [excited domestic insurrection among us, & has] endeavored to bring
on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose
known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes,
& conditions of existence.

He has incited treasonable insurrections of our fellow-citizens, with the
allurements of forfeiture & confiscation of our property.

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most
sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who
never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another
hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.
This piratical warfare, the opprobium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of
the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where
MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for
suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this
execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact
of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms
among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by
murdering the people on whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former
crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he
urges them to commit against the LIVES of another.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the
most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by
repeated injuries.

A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a
tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a [ ] [free] people who mean to be free.
Future ages will scarcely believe that the hardiness of one man adventured,
within the short compass of twelve years only, to lay a foundation so broad
& so undisguised for tyranny over a people fostered & fixed in principles
of freedom.

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have
warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend a
[an unwarrantable] jurisdiction over these our states [us]. We have
reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration & settlement here, no
one of which could warrant so strange a pretension: that these were
effected at the expense of our own blood & treasure, unassisted by the
wealth or the strength of Great Britain: that in constituting indeed our
several forms of government, we had adopted one common king, thereby laying
a foundation for perpetual league & amity with them: but that submission to
their parliament was no part of our constitution, nor ever in idea, if
history may be credited: and, we [ ] [have] appealed to their native
justice and magnanimity as well as to [and we have conjured them by] the
ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations which were likely
to [would inevitably] interrupt our connection and correspondence. They too
have been deaf to the voice of justice & of consanguinity, and when
occasions have been given them, by the regular course of their laws, of
removing from their councils the disturbers of our harmony, they have, by
their free election, re-established them in power. At this very time too
they are permitting their chief magistrate to send over not only soldiers
of our common blood, but Scotch & foreign mercenaries to invade & destroy
us. These facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, and manly
spirit bids us to renounce forever these unfeeling brethren. We must [We
must therefore] endeavor to forget our former love for them, and hold them
as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends. We might
have been a free and a great people together; but a communication of
grandeur & of freedom it seems is below their dignity. Be it so, since they
will have it. The road to happiness & to glory is open to us too. We will
tread it apart from them, and acquiesce in the necessity which denounces
our eternal separation [ ] [and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind,
enemies in war, in peace friends.]!

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